Friday, September 16, 2011

Shinnecock Face New Casino Hurdles; Tribal Leader won't say if Gateway Casino Resorts (Mike Malik / Marian Ilitch) would lobby in Albany on its behalf

Tribe's Latest Hurdle To Casino: Legalized Gambling Proposal

By Michael Wright

The Shinnecock Indian Nation’s effort to secure permission to operate a potentially lucrative casino has cleared a number of mountainous hurdles. But it has several more to clear before its initial proposal—for a casino at the Belmont Park horse racetrack in Nassau County—can become reality.

The latest threat to the casino effort, or to its economic potential, might come from an unusual quadrant: those who want to see gaming more widely legalized.

A number of state officials, primarily legislators and state senators from economically struggling resort areas in the Catskills region, have suggested that New York should legalize gambling in portions of the state, like New Jersey did for Atlantic City in 1976. That could allow private interests beyond Native American tribes to build and operate casinos…

...Shinnecock Tribal Trustees Chairman Randy King said that the tribe has not discussed internally the potential of non-Indian gaming interfering with their plans at Belmont and elsewhere. He said other tribes from upstate have opposed the consideration of non-Indian gaming, on the basis that it would violate the contracts they signed with the state to operate their casinos.

His own tribe’s efforts are focused on garnering support for their own casino and on securing the funding from the Bureau of Indian Affairs for various infrastructure projects that it is entitled to as a federally recognized tribe.

Mr. King compared the Shinnecocks and other Native American tribes as being in a “David-and-Goliath”-type struggle with giant gaming entities like Genting, whose money earns them easy access to lawmakers’ offices. He said the tribe and its representatives have still not gotten to sit down with the governor to discuss the future of a Shinnecock gaming facility.

“Our main focus is getting to the governor’s table, which I would hope is imminent,” the tribal chairman said. “A little media fluff about this doesn’t ruffle my feathers. My priority is getting to the governor’s office, and getting the potholes in our roads fixed.”

Mr. King would not say whether representatives of the tribe’s partners, Gateway Casinos, have been or would be lobbying against any consideration of legalized non-Indian gaming. Gateway and its principals, Michael Malick and Marian Ilitch, have been among the most active proponents of legalized gaming throughout the country, spending millions on pro-gaming lobbying in Hawaii and California and elsewhere. But Gateway has also invested millions in payments to the Shinnecocks for legal fees and tribal business over the last several years in exchange for the right to develop a future, or casinos, and take a cut of the profits...

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